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On a Roll
New hair, new friends, new luck, new album: Britney Spears, newly single, steps out in Vegas

Gambling and gamboling, Britney Spears hit Las Vegas Nov. 17. First, the singer, 24, headed to The Palms Casino Resort recording studio with producer Lukasz Gottwald, who's mixing tracks for her first album in more than three years. "She's having fun, and her voice never sounded better," says a source close to Spears. Luck seems to be on her side too: Spears—unsuccessfully incognito in a candy-pink wig and sunglasses—took the house for $10,000 at blackjack. (Meanwhile, estranged husband Kevin Federline, 28—whose gigs in California on Nov. 20 and 21 were canceled, presumably due to lagging ticket sales—partied at Mansion in Miami's South Beach.) At night, Spears took on the Vegas scene with a vengeance. In addition to hanging out with Dancing with the Stars finalist Mario Lopez at the casino and, later, at Moon Nightclub, Spears had dinner at The Venetian's Tao Nov. 19 with Palms owner George Maloof and new pal Paris Hilton. After dinner, the similarly coiffed duo hit Tryst Nightclub at Wynn Las Vegas. "Britney looked hot," says a fellow clubgoer. "You'd never know she recently had her second baby." At one point, the new mom even helped the DJ spin tunes. "We all know she can dance," adds another eyewitness, "but she was on fire!"

heart monitor

JESSICA & JOHN: TAKE TWO

A public affair? Hardly. But Jessica Simpson and John Mayer—who were linked three months ago, then played down any romance—sure spend a lot of time together. With Mayer on a break from his tour, the two were spotted clubbing in L.A. Nov. 18 and have become regulars at Paradise Cove Café in Malibu. What's the deal? "They're fond of each other," a source close to Mayer tells Scoop. "There's a flirtation." They are simply "enjoying each other's company and seeing how things go," seconds a Simpson source. "There's no title to their relationship." Whatever the bond may be, it's about to go long distance: Mayer is back in L.A., but Simpson begins filming Blonde Ambition in Louisiana Nov. 27. Pen pals, anyone?

FALL FLING

Ashlee Simpson & Drew Fuller

Ah, young love. The singer, 22, made herself very comfortable during the Nintendo Wii launch party at Hollywood's Boulevard3 club Nov. 16, settling into the lap of Drew Fuller (Charmed), 26, for a major makeout session. And her rumored boyfriend, Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz? He glumly walked out of the party. Wentz says he and Simpson were always "just friends." A rep for Simpson had no comment.

NEW COUPLE

Teri Hatcher & Stephen Kay

The sometimes unlucky-in-love actress—most recently linked (briefly) to American Idol's Ryan Seacrest—confirms there's a new man in her life: actor-director Stephen Kay (who has helmed episodes of Saved and Friday Night Lights). The one complication? He used to date her costar Eva Longoria. Will this trigger a Desperate Housewives catfight? Don't count on it. Longoria—who was linked to Kay two years ago—"wishes ... happiness for Teri," says her rep.

UPDATES

On/Off

Is Orlando Bloom rebounding with Kirsten Dunst? "They've been hooking up.... They're good friends," says a source close to the Elizabethtown costars. "They both like to have fun." Her rep called romance reports "nonsense"; his could not be reached.... Chris Robinson—who was overheard in L.A. introducing pals to his "girlfriend"—filed for divorce from Kate Hudson Nov. 17, citing irreconcilable differences. He seeks joint custody of their son Ryder, 2.

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SECURITY SCUFFLE

Riot act: Police arrested three of Angelina Jolie's bodyguards for allegedly roughing up bystanders and using an ethnic slur on the Mumbai, India, set of A Mighty Heart Nov. 16. "I would never work with anyone [who] was derogatory to another man's race," Jolie said. "My family is of mixed race." (Brad Pitt called the incident "a horrible misunderstanding.") The men must stay in town until Nov. 23 while the matter is investigated; the Jolie-Pitts have left the country.

ROYAL RUSH

They're not engaged yet. But who cares? The U.K. chain Woolworths has unveiled knickknack designs marking the anticipated wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. "We will be ready!" says a rep. The Palace, not surprisingly, had no comment.

CLEAN BILL OF HEALTH

Father knows best? Not necessarily. Rod Stewart told Rolling Stone that daughter Kimberly, 27, has a "very serious liver illness from drinking too much." But Kimberly insists she's just fine. "I love my dad, but sometimes he has a big mouth—and not just when he's singing," she tells PEOPLE. "I don't have a liver disease. I was burning the candle at both ends, and my doctor told me to cut back on drinking and smoking. I have, and I feel so much better."

HAVE KID, WILL CARRY
Need a lift? Toting tots can be backbreaking work ...

Jude Law & son Rafferty, 10

Calista Flockhart & son Liam, 5

Nicole Kidman & nephew Hamish, 5

Kate Moss & daughter Lila, 4

Tommy Lee & son Dylan Jagger, 8

Q + A

LIFE AFTER DEATH
Time ran out for Six Feet Under, but Freddy Rodriguez's career is alive and kicking

Still mourning the end of Six Feet Under? Rejoice: Freddy Rodriguez is back. Since shedding Federico Diaz's latex gloves last year, the married father of two has worked on several films, including Bobby and Harsh Times (now playing). The actor, 31, talked to Scoop about his big-screen rebirth.

Bobby has quite a cast. How was it being part of a stellar ensemble?

Emilio called out of nowhere about it, and I was like, "Wow, Emilio Estevez, man!" You're intimidated meeting Sharon [Stone], Laurence [Fishburne], Demi [Moore]—Demi was a big part of my teenage-hood. I tried to play it cool, but internally I was screaming.

What drew you to the role—a witness to Bobby Kennedy's 1968 shooting?

You see [in the iconic photo of the assassination] that the moment [after] he was shot, out of all the people in the room, the one person kneeling down next to Robert F. Kennedy was this busboy. A busboy! He put his own safety on the line to kneel with a dying man. It just blew my mind.

That's a tough act to follow. What's next?

I'm doing Grind House, a Quentin Tarantino-Robert Rodriguez collaboration. I did gun training, knife training, fight choreography. Thank God I have a dance background, so when it came down to the fight choreography, I could do it.

Were you a backup dancer? Like K-Fed?

I was! Not to the level of K-Fed, but I did some backup dancing in [my hometown of] Chicago. I think I can still do the running man!

Any teen comedies coming up, like your role in 1998's cult fave Can't Hardly Wait?

You know what? I'm proud of Can't Hardly Wait! You watch that movie and it's the Fast Times at Ridgemont High of our generation.

What does Elsie, your wife of 11 years, think of your new status as a movie star?

She deserves this a lot more than I do. She's an incredible woman who made huge sacrifices for the sake of my career. I'd be a freakin' loser in Chicago somewhere if it weren't for her.

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